Joe Lively may well have a tough time of things this year as he steps out of Novice company with an initial mark of 143, and so we will take a chance on HARMONY BRIG ahead of Ardaghey, Glasker Mill, He's The Gaffer and half the field. This really does look an open race, and it would be no surprise to see an improved performance from last-year's winner Ardaghey who may be best fresh and is now rated one pound less than when winning; I smell a rat. However Harmony Brig wasn't beaten too far in last year's renewal and he is given the nod here. He has been dropped in the weights since two average runs in January but they were in hot races and he never got competitive. Brian Harding knows him well and a big run looks on the cards. He's The Gaffer has been mopping up weak races in both disciplines but this looks harder, so a bigger danger may be Noir Et Vert. He wasn't seen out last season until the Festival so it appears that Ferdy Murphy has a plan up his sleeve; I smell another rat. Brooklyn Brownie is consistent, along with Frankie Figg and The King Of Angels. Nirvana Swing has a lovely racing weight and is an interesting contender following a decent Northern campaign last season. The most interesting jockey booking is Ruby Walsh for the ex-French Newman Des Plages who makes his British chasing debut for Martin Todhunter. Glasker Mill is capable and along with Parsons Legacy warrants respect, however we will stick with Harmony Brig at a tasty price.
Fundamentalist (IRE) 14-1 (11-9) In touch, effort 4 out, weakened next, 8th of 15, 43l behind Always Waining (11-0) at Market Rasen 2m 6f lst hcp chs (1) gd in Sept.
Joe Lively (IRE) 7-4fav (11-8) Prominent, led 8th until 10th, with winner, mistake 4 out, soon ridden, every chance after next, one pace from 2 out, 2nd of 6, 10l behind Beat The Boys (11-8) at Cheltenham 3m 1f nov chs (2) gs in Apr.
Glasker Mill (IRE) 7-2 (11-7) Held up, headway 16th, chased winner before 2 out, no impression, 2nd of 5, 9l behind Turko (11-11) at Sandown 3m Grad Ch (2) gs in Dec.
Parsons Legacy (IRE) 6-1 (11-11) Prominent, led 5 out, mistake 4 out, soon ridden, headed approaching 2 out, weakened flat, 4th of 9, 4l behind Irish Raptor (10-12) at Cheltenham 3m 2f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Jan.
Harmony Brig (IRE) 22-1 (11-2) Held up, reminders 10th, never dangerous, 12th of 20, 35l behind An Accordion (10-3) at Doncaster 3m lst hcp chs (1) gd in Jan.
Brooklyn Brownie (IRE) 15-2 (11-1) Mid-division, driven and headway 4 out, ridden and kept on from next, never troubled leaders, 4th of 15, 12l behind Always Waining (11-0) at Market Rasen 2m 6f lst hcp chs (1) gd in Sept.
Ardaghey (IRE) 16-1 (11-5) Not fluent in rear, driven 13th, never dangerous, 9th of 18, 35l behind Eric's Charm (11-1) at Perth 3m hcp chs (2) gs in Apr.
Newman Des Plages (FR) 33-1 (11-10) Led, soon clear, pipped 4 out, soon headed and weakened, behind when pulled up 2 out in race won by Nycteos (11-5) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Dec, 10 ran.
Openide 14-1 (9-7) Prominent, led from 4th, headed after 3 out, soon ridden and no impression, 6th of 18, 28l behind Ponmeoath (10-5) at Listowel 3m hcp chs sft in Sept.
He's The Gaffer (IRE) 5-4fav (11-5) Mid-division, headway on bit 9th, led from 3 out, soon ridden, kept on gamely from 2 out, won at N Abbot 3m 3f hcp hdl 0-100 (4) gd in Aug beating Cornish Flame (11-1) by 1 1/2l, 12 ran.
Copsale Lad 16-1 (11-5) Held up, ridden after 4 out, weakened from next, 7th of 15, 14l behind Liberate (11-10) at Haydock 3m hcp hdl (2) gd in May.
Noir Et Vert (FR) 7-1 (9-7) Prominent, hit 20th, weakened 5 out, 12th of 24, well behind Iris De Balme (9-7) at Ayr 4m hcp chs Grd 3 (1) gd in Apr.
Dr Hart (IRE) 8-1 (11-4) Mid-division, mistake 12th, headway approaching 4 out, kept on same pace to go 2nd close home, 2nd of 11, 8l behind Oslot (11-3) at N Abbot 2m 5f nov chs (3) gs in Apr.
Frankie Figg (IRE) 33-1 (11-0) Led, ridden and headed 4 out, weakened 2 out, 3rd of 5, 16l behind Starzaan (11-4) at Ayr 2m 4f nov chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Apr.
Burntoakboy 28-1 (9-11) Chased leaders, disputed lead 4 out, ridden and weakened approaching next, 12th of 19, 48l behind Monkerhostin (10-13) at Sandown 3m 5f hcp chs Grd 3 (1) gd in Apr.
The King of Angels (IRE) 7-1 (11-12) Chased leaders, led 14th, ridden next, headed approaching last, soon weakened, 3rd of 14, 10l behind Bill's Echo (11-6) at Bangor 3m hcp chs 0-130 (3) gd.
Nirvana Swing (FR) 11-2 (11-6) Tracked leaders, headway 3 out, ridden next, led after last, stayed on well, won at Perth 2m 4f hcp chs 0-125 (3) gd in Apr beating Great Jane (10-1) by 2 1/2l, 15 ran.